MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - The Russian navy will add three new large landing ships next year to the 19 already in service, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
The Russian navy is under scrutiny during a widening international crisis over Crimea, a region with an ethnic Russian majority in Ukraine which Moscow has effectively wrestled from Kiev in recent days, causing outrage in the West.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops involved in a military exercise in central and western Ukraine back to base, a move that appeared intended to help ease tension.
But the timing of Shoigu’s comments signalled Moscow was still flexing its muscles, underlining Moscow’s commitment to building up its armed forces in coming years. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has a base in Crimea.
“Currently the Russian navy has 19 vessels of this type, they have been in service for more than 25 years on average,” Shoigu was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
“In 2015 the Russian navy will add large landing ship ‘Ivan Gren’ as well as two helicopter carriers,” he said.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Timothy Heritage